Hardened Ground – Recent History Picks for October

Lost cities, forgotten wars and starved earth make up some of the dark subject matter in this month’s selection. Despite this, titles such as in Remembering Christchurch, 1 Dead in Attic and Black Earth focus their lens on the social histories that have kept people alive through unimaginable struggle, resistances to letting these traumas repeat, while honouring the human spirit of survival.

Syndetics book coverKūpapa : the bitter legacy of Māori alliances with the Crown / Ron Crosby.
“The Treaty of Waitangi struck a bargain between two parties: the Crown and Māori. Its promises of security, however, were followed from 1845 to 1872 by a series of volatile and bloody conflicts commonly known as the New Zealand Wars. Many people today believe that these wars were fought solely between the Crown and Māori, when the reality is that Māori aligned with both sides… Kūpapa addresses those realities, the complex Treaty-related reasons for them, and the cynical use of Māori by the Crown for its own purposes.” (Publisher information)

Syndetics book coverRemembering Christchurch : voices from decades past / Alison Parr with Rosemary Baird.
“What remains when a city vanishes? Remembering Christchurch captures the human heritage that survives the devastation of the Canterbury earthquakes. In evocative interviews, older citizens share their precious memories, bringing Christchurch back to life […] Woven through these stories, a social history of Christchurch emerges, exposing shifting attitudes to class, race, religion, sex and the place of women. Vivid and revealing, these rich memories create a lasting legacy for a much-loved city.” (Adapted from Syndetics summary)

Syndetics book cover1 dead in attic : after Katrina / Chris Rose.
“Full of the emotion, tragedy and even humor-which has made Chris Rose a favorite son and the voice of a lost city-these are the stories of the dead and the living, of survivors and believers, of destruction and recovery, and of hope and despair. With photographs by British photojournalist Charlie Varley, 1 Dead in Attic captures New Orleans caught between an old era and a new, New Orleans in its most desperate time, as it struggled out of floodwaters and willed itself back to life.” (Adapted from Syndetics summary)

Syndetics book coverParadise of the Pacific : approaching Hawaii / Susanna Moore.
“Susanna Moore pieces together the elusive, dramatic story of late-eighteenth-century Hawaii–its kings and queens, gods and goddesses, missionaries, migrants, and explorers–a not-so-distant time of abrupt transition, in which an isolated pagan world of human sacrifice and strict taboo, without a currency or a written language, was confronted with the equally ritualized world of capitalism, Western education, and Christian values.” (Adapted from Syndetics summary)

Syndetics book coverPacific crucible : war at sea in the Pacific, 1941-1942 / Ian W. Toll.
“On the first Sunday in December 1941, an armada of Japanese warplanes appeared suddenly over Pearl Harbor, Hawaii, and devastated the U.S. Pacific Fleet. Six months later, in a sea fight north of the tiny atoll of Midway, four Japanese aircraft carriers were sent into the abyss. Toll tells the epic tale of these first searing months of the Pacific war, when the U.S. Navy shook off the worst defeat in American military history and seized the strategic initiative.” (Adapted from Syndetics summary)

Syndetics book coverBlack earth : the Holocaust as history and warning / Timothy Snyder.
“By overlooking the lessons of the Holocaust, we have misunderstood modernity and endangered the future. The early twenty-first century is coming to resemble the early twentieth, as growing preoccupations with food and water accompany ideological challenges to global order. Our world is closer to Hitler’s than we like to admit, and saving it requires us to see the Holocaust as it was — and ourselves as we are. Groundbreaking, authoritative, and utterly absorbing, Black Earth reveals a Holocaust that is not only history but warning.” (Adapted from Syndetics summary)

Syndetics book coverNorth Korea : state of paranoia / Paul French.
“Drawing on an impressive range of insider sources and previously unseen archival material, Paul French examines the nation and its ruling regime in forensic detail. He offers a close analysis of the history and politics of North Korea; Pyongyang’s complex relations with South Korea, Japan, China, and the United States; and the troubling implications of Kim Jong-Un’s increasingly belligerent leadership in the years since his father, Kim Jong-il, died.” (Adapted from Syndetics summary)

Syndetics book coverThe worst hard time : the untold story of those who survived the great American Dust Bowl / Timothy Egan.
“The American West got lucky when Tim Egan focused his acute powers of observation on its past and present. Egan’s remarkable combination of clear analysis and warm empathy anchors his portrait of the women and men who held on to their places–and held on to their souls–through the nearly unimaginable miseries of the Dust Bowl. This book provides the finest mental exercise for people wanting to deepen, broaden, and strengthen their thinking about the relationship of human beings to this earth.”  (Adapted from Syndetics summary)

Syndetics book coverFarthest field : an Indian story of the Second World War / Raghu Karnad.
“In riveting prose, Karnad retrieves the story of a single family – a story of love, rebellion, loyalty and uncertainty – and with it, the greatest revelation that is India’s Second World War. Farthest Field narrates the lost epic of India’s war, in which the largest volunteer army in history (2.5m men) fought for the British Empire, even as its countrymen fought to be free of it. It carries us from Madras to Peshawar, Egypt to Burma – unfolding the saga of a young family amazed by their swiftly changing world and swept up in its violence.” (Adapted from Syndetics summary)

Syndetics book coverBackstairs Billy : the life of William Tallon, the Queen Mother’s most devoted servant / Tom Quinn.
“William Tallon, who died in 2007, was a shopkeeper’s son from the Midlands who rose through the ranks to work for the Queen Mother for more than fifty years. […] Billy adored her and she adored Billy; perhaps because of his high-camp style and outrageous remarks about the well-born equerries, royal press people and advisers, but mostly because he made her gin and tonics just the way she liked them–nine-tenths gin and one-tenth tonic. Outrageously funny, scandalous, sometimes shocking, but always fascinating, this is the royal family through the eyes of one of its most extroverted servants.” (Adapted from Syndetics summary)